Teachers plan to continue serving students amid school closures in North Carolina

NC Teacher of the Year Maria Morris

Mariah Morris, North Carolina’s reigning Teacher of the Year, has asked educators across the state to post instructional videos on YouTube for students stuck at home due to COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus.

Morris, an elementary school teacher at West Pine Elementary School in Pinehurst, joined regional 2019 and 2020 Teachers of the Year for Facebook live meeting Monday morning to discuss how teachers can continue to serve students through online learning.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Saturday that all public schools would close for at least two weeks.

“We are in uncharted times, and teachers want to help,” Morris told Policy Watch. “From the time school closures were announced, there has been a buzz among teachers to come together to act in the best interest of our students. This is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to come together across North Carolina and connect with our students daily.”

Morris asked teachers to focus on four “action steps” that include donating to local food pantries and the United Way; working with community leaders to make sure students are fed, safe and warm; and supporting students and teachers who are adapting to new modes of learning.

And beginning today, the Teachers of the Year will provide instructional videos on Morris’ s YouTube channel. Elementary lessons will be posted at 9 a.m., followed by middle school and high schools lessons at 9:30 a.m.

“There are great online resources already out there for students to use,” Morris said “However, the online resources aren’t a connection with a warm, caring teacher. The purpose of these videos is for students to be able to see a friendly teacher’s face each day modeling a fun lesson. We want to provide a social-emotional connection, routine, and engagement for our students as we all learn to navigate these unprecedented times.”

Morris, an adviser on the State Board of Education, warned that the pandemic and widespread closures are unprecedented for North Carolina. 

“State leaders don’t have a road map for what to do,” she said. “We didn’t have time to plan for this. We’re literally figuring it out as we go.”

Teachers will play an important role in helping state leaders navigate the next several weeks, she said.

“This is our time to shine and to show our communities across North Carolina that we can step up and that we can lean in and we can do what it takes to meet our students needs as well as our community needs,” the Moore County educator said.

Last Friday, Cooper said public schools would remain open, but he reversed course on Saturday, the same day a Wake County teacher tested positive for the virus. 

However, Cooper said that didn’t factor into his decision.

“We need a period of time here to assess the threat of COVID-19 and to make sure we have a coordinated statewide response to deal with the fallout when you don’t have children in schools,” Cooper said at a Saturday press conference. “I’m not sure there is a right or wrong here because there is so much we don’t know. If we are going to err here, we want to err on the side of caution.”

The governor has appointed a child nutrition task force to work on ways to ensure low-income students can still be fed and have their immediate needs met while out of school.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the State Board of Education adopted a resolution in support of school closures.

“We will seek to support our public schools across the state,” Board Chairman Eric Davis said in a statement. “Work is already underway to help feed children who are out of school. To serve students we will seek to leverage our existing digital capabilities and we will work with educators to find new ways to deliver instruction.”

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